“Meet the Shepherd…Meet Christ”
John 10:1-10 ~ Rev. G. Scott Turnbrook ~ Northwood United Church ~ May 10, 2020
Hello…my name is Yousef. You can call me “You-ey”. That’s what my friends call me. And I think that we will become friends. You have kind eyes. It is nice to sit down and take a break amidst my long day working in the fields. Do you mind if I have some water while we talk? I should apologize, spending all day working with my sheep, one starts to smell like them too. I am a shepherd, yes I am! And I love my sheep. I guess I love them so much, I even smell like them too. Haha! This has been a particularly busy time for me protecting my beloved flock of precious sheep. Normally I’m up at dawn feeding and caring for the sheep and then home at night with my family. But, some days, when the wolves howl late into the evening, I even sleep in the sheepfold. Just to ensure my babies are safe and protected. I guess my mother taught me a good ‘mothering-instinct’. Ah…the life of a shepherd. And you know what, I would never trade it for a moment.
So you are a pilgrim, you say. A follower of the Way…a follower of Jesus’ Way. Following your faith…trying to figure out who this Jesus is. Aren’t we all? Ever since that dark day when the sun didn’t shine and then the first day when it did, we have all been trying to figure it out. What are you people calling it?...‘Easter?’ Your Jesus called himself ‘the Good Shepherd’, so you thought you would come out to sheep country and see for yourself? A good pilgrimage, indeed! Well, you are here, and now you can see for yourself what the life of a shepherd is like.
So, a shepherd…what is it like? Well, I guess I would start by saying that a shepherd’s work never stops; we are relentless; and fiercely caring. As I said, some nights I even sleep right here in their midst. I unroll my sleeping bag and sleep under the stars. It was romantic the first few times ~ sleeping under the twinkling sky; but it became tedious soon after. But you never stop doing it. You know why? Because we shepherds love our sheep. These precious sheep are part of our family; they are my children whom I dearly love. I know them all by name ~ pet names that I have for them: Bob, Betty, Don, Sue…And they each know my voice when I call. It can be risky, and I would lay my life down form my babies. I have fought off menacing wolves who got too close, waving my staff at them. I don’t quite know what I would do if the wolves fought back ~ I shout and wave them away. I am a ‘sheep doctor’ too. I have mended many a broken sheep’s leg; I have nursed them back to life when they are ill. I guess us shepherds have a protecting, caring, mothering instinct in us. We shepherds would lay down our life, if we had to, for each one of our precious sheep.
So, if you are telling me that this is what your saviour is like ~ a relentless, caring, protecting shepherd, well I’d have to say, that is beautiful kind of saviour you have! Your people have certainly been through a lot over the generations, haven’t you? Generations who have lived in slavery and yearned to come home to your promised land. Egypt, Babylon, Assyria…so many powerful lands surrounding you. Never happy with what they have…always wanting to conquer their neighbours, and grow, and exploit. Never happy. Why is that? Maybe we will never know…
It’s interesting, I would have imagined your saviour to have been even bigger and more powerful than the opponents who threaten you. Not a meek shepherd like myself. I expected a powerful saviour ~ kind of a ‘Goliath-style’ saviour. You know…might makes right…bigger is better. But, you are telling me that this new saviour whom God has sent brings a new kind of power; more powerful than the earthly power that we usually let rule us. Yes, this shepherd-saviour Jesus is really quite intriguing, indeed! Hahaha…now that is ever harder for me to fathom. A shepherd-saviour…now a shepherd-King, you tell me? Now that’s quite a yarn you are spinning! You are telling me that your holy book has stories of the great kings as being shepherds? Now that’s a good one! Wait, let me call some of my friends who would enjoy a good laugh as well! (pause) Hmm….you are serious. So, you are truthfully telling me that your holy books tell stories of your King David as being a ‘Shepherd King’? That is quite an odd image because most people in my culture view my people as the bottom of society ~ we smelly shepherds have no status or power ~ just a lowly shepherd. Hmmm…but King David, the shepherd King. (pause) Yes, of course…of course I’ve heard that song “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…” That is one of the sacred songs of your people. I hear you singing it at funerals and in times of sadness. I didn’t know that it was your great King David who first wrote it. This image of your God being a shepherd-King who will guide the people of Israel, who will lead and protect them is, indeed, quite wonderful! A shepherd-Saviour…a shepherd-King…this is truly turning into an interesting conversation!
What is that? Oh that…that is the gate to the sheepfold. You wanted to see what the gate looked like because your Jesus calls himself “the Gate”. Well, he is a very wise person then indeed. The gate is very important. The gate is something that only I operate and it is critical for protecting my sheep. And I want to tell you that if this Jesus is truly a shepherd, he will spot every last one of his sheep, and he will keep that gate open until every last sheep are safely inside. It’s interesting, gates can be used to keep some in and keep some out. A true shepherd keeps the gate open until all are safely inside, all are safe and sound. It doesn’t matter if some of the sheep aren’t as pretty as others; it doesn’t matter if they need care and attention; it doesn’t matter how far astray a sheep has gone, a true shepherd will keep that gate open for all their sheep.
It sounds as if this Jesus will be a bit of ‘riddle’ for you to solve in your faith quest. It is almost like that insolvable Zen riddle of that sound of one hand clapping. Perhaps in the delicacy of this riddle, you will uncover your answer. Perhaps it is not so much about getting the ‘right answer’, but rather living into the delicate nature of your faith? How could this one who gave away his life for you, allow for you to have life in all its abundance? How could this one teach that in dying, life will be found…even there? How could a shepherd be a King? How could a shepherd be a saviour? Indeed…
Well…you have Yousef’s attention! I think I should want to learn more about your Jesus. I’m glad we talked, my friend. I’m glad that we shared some of my shepherd life. I wish you much truth and wisdom in your quest to know this shepherding saviour of yours. He sounds like a good saviour, the kind the world could use about now!
I must get back to my sheep. They need me. And you must continue on your journey.
Go in peace, my friend!